Handling Insurance Cases -5- Exhibits For Trial

Exhibits for a trial in a first-party insurance case need to be well thought out and planned.

Almost all courts require the attorneys to attend a pre-trial conference for the purpose of admitting or making rulings on proposed exhibits.  Most exhibits are agreed or ruled upon by the Judge at these pre-trial hearings.  Having these exhibits admitted before trial helps the respective lawyers prepare their questions and arguments with these exhibits in mind.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as it relates to trial exhibits.

I.  Know the rules of evidence.  Even if a good relationship exists with opposing counsel, he or she will reasonably anticipate the majority of the exhibits you want to admit at trial and will be prepared to present case law or other legal reasons to keep certain exhibits out of evidence.  Thus, attorneys must be ready to justify the reasons why the exhibit should be admitted.  Conversely, the opposing attorney should be anticipating most of the exhibits the other side seeks to admit and be able to argue why they should not be admitted.

II.  Visual evidence is a big key in all cases.  Studies show that jurors are significantly more likely to remember visual evidence such as photographs, videos or other demonstrative exhibits as opposed to verbal testimony.  Therefore, photographs or video should be used with a witness when describing damages or explaining a particular policy provision or insurance company procedure.

III.  Being redundant can be harmful.  Lawyers have a tendency to hammer and hammer on the positives in a case to the point of redundancy.  A lawyer is not always looking at the jury during trial and as a result it is not always clear whether a point is getting across.  In most cases, lawyers should be assured that the jury is listening and that they understand the evidence and arguments.  As a result, lawyers should use only the photos and documents that are needed to make the point and move on with their case.  Most first-party cases are not overly complicated, so the quicker the lawyer can prove the case, the better.